25 Most Polluted Cities in the World (2020 Rankings)

Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death around the world. But which cities and countries are the most polluted in the world? Smart Air analyzed 2020 air pollution data for 540 major cities from 182 countries around the world to produce the 2020 ranking of the “25 Most Polluted Cities in the World”.

Watch: Run Down of Top 5 Most Polluted Cities in the World
Top 5 Most Polluted Cities in the World (2020 Rankings)

Scroll down below for the full run down of the world’s most polluted cities, and which countries they’re in:

Rankings: 25 Most Polluted Cities in the World

1. Ghaziabad, India

2. Lahore, Pakistan

Lahore Air Pollution Second Worst in World

3. Delhi, India

Lahore Air Pollution One of Worst in World

4. Lucknow, India

Lucknow Air Pollution Second Worst in World

5. Muzaffarnagar, India

Muzaffarnagar India one of most polluted cities in world

6. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka Bangladesh one of most polluted cities in world

7. Antakya, Turkey

Antakya Turkey one of most polluted cities in world

8. Hapur, India

Hapur India one of most polluted cities in world

9. Peshawar, Pakistan

10. Kampala, Uganda

Kampala Uganda Air Pollution One of Worst in World

11. Anyang, China

Anyang China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

12. Patna, India

Patna India Air Pollution One of Worst in World

13. Shijiazhuang, China

Shijiazhuang China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

14. Xuchang, China

15. Xinxiang, China

Xinxiang China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

16. Bamako, Mali

Bamako Mali Air Pollution One of Worst in World

17. Zhengzhou, China

18. Manama, Bahrain

Manama Bahrain Air Pollution One of Worst in World

19. Taiyuan, China

20. Chandigarh, India

Chandigarh, India Air Pollution one of Worst in World

21. Xian, China

Xian China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

22. Tianjin, China

Tianjin China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

23. Kabul, Afghanistan

Kabul Afghanistan Air Pollution One of Worst in World

24. Jinan, China

Jinan China Air Pollution One of Worst in World

25. Dushanbe, Tajikstan

Dushanbe, Tajikistan Air Pollution One of Worst in World

Read More: What were the 25 LEAST polluted cities in the world of 2020?

Analysis

Of the 25 most polluted cities in the world, 9 were located in China, while 7 were located in India. However, for the top 5 most polluted cities in the world, India topped the list. 4 of the top 5 most polluted cities in 2020 were in India.

All of the ranked cities had average air quality many times above the WHO recommended healthy limit. Many of the cities with the worst air quality are located in similar geographical areas on the globe. Other countries which featured in the list include Pakistan, the UAE and Uganda in Africa.

Most polluted cities in the world

Data bias

Some readers may note that only two cities in Africa – Kampala in Uganda, and Bamako in Mali – featured in the list. No cities or countries in South America were in the list. This does not mean that these cities aren’t polluted. Africa and South America lack air pollution reporting tools, so it is difficult to know the pollution levels on-the-ground in many of these cities.

The fact that so many Indian and Chinese cities featured in the list is testament to the fact that they have large and wide air pollution monitoring networks set up to detect pollution levels.

Air Pollution Heat Map Paints a Clearer Picture

Below is a pollution heat map from the WHO. WHO research shows that over 92% of people in the world are breathing unsafe air with high air pollution levels.

Global Air Pollution Map
Image: WHO

How Air Pollution Was Measured to Find Most Polluted Cities in World

There are various pollutants (both particles and gases) that can be found in the air. One of the most commonly tracked pollutants are very small, fine particles called PM2.5.

These small pollutants are under 2.5 micrograms in width and considered to be one of the more dangerous pollutants due to their ability to enter deep into the lungs and bloodstream. The above rankings of the most polluted cities in the world were ranked based on their 2020 average PM2.5 pollution levels. 

Open Data

As part of Smart Air’s open data pledge, the raw PM2.5 AQI 2020 world pollution data used for the rankings of the world’s most polluted cities are openly available to download.


How I Protect Myself

Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air.

Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that remove the same particles as the big companies for a fraction of the cost. Only corporations benefit when clean air is a luxury.

For protection against air pollution, check out the Sqair!

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifier and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.